30 August 2006

Uganda: 'Mabira Trees Are Valuable'

Kampala — PART of Mabira forest reserve that SCOUL wants for expansion is still stocked with valuable trees, some of which have been allocated to a private investor Nile Ply, to harvest for timber.

Speaking over the weekend, Gaster Kiyingi, the spokesperson of the National Forestry Authority (NFA), said a running concession worth sh300m was allocated to Nile Ply, a private company, to fell trees in part of the forest near Ntunda.

"How can we give a logging concession to a company if the forest does not have timber valuable trees?" asked Kiyingi. "The report by Mehta's company is misleading," he added.

The Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) two weeks ago submitted a report to the environment ministry claiming part of Mabira forest, which it wants degazetted, is heavily encroached.

The report indicated there was a lot of burning charcoal and that most of timber trees consisted paper mulberry, Kirundu, nnongo and Mubajangalabi, which have low timber value.

The report was on August 14 sent to the ministry by A. Rao, plantations general manager, as SCOUL seeks government approval to change land use of 7,100ha (a quarter of the reserve).

However, Kiyingi said Mabira has been regenerating from the time encroachers were evicted about a decade ago. "The land reserved for forestry activities even if encroached should not be converted to sugarcane plantation," said Kiyingi.

Kiyingi's explanation was backed by a recent report of an inventory taken by NFA, showing the production zone of the forest has more than three million trees.

"This gives an impression that if well protected, the forest will become more productive," he said.

Mabira is is zoned into areas where harvesting timber is permitted (production zone), for conservation, eco-tourism and a buffer zone (where low impact use like harvesting honey, firewood and medicinal plants is allowed).

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